Posts Tagged ‘Americans With Disabilities Act’

Employer Pays $25K to Settle EEOC Suit Alleging It Discriminated Against Worker Who Was Bipolar

A home healthcare company recently settled an Americans With Disabilities Act lawsuit filed against it by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of an employee who had bipolar disorder.

AccentCare, Inc., a home healthcare company headquartered in Dallas, has agreed to pay $25,000 and provide other significant relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced Friday. The EEOC charged in its suit that AccentCare discriminated against an employee with bipolar disorder.

According to the EEOC’s suit, an AccentCare IT analyst informed the company that she has bipolar disorder and requested leave in order to see her health care provider. The EEOC further said that upon learning of the employee’s disability and receiving her request for leave, AccentCare fired her within one day, without giving proper consideration to her request.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which protects employees from discrimination based on their disabilities and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to employees’ disabilities as long as it does not pose an undue hardship. The EEOC sued in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas (Civil Action No. 3:15-cv-03157) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

Under the terms of the consent decree settling the case, AccentCare, Inc. will pay $25,000 in monetary relief to the former IT analyst. AccentCare also agreed to post a notice about the settlement, and to provide training for employees on the ADA to include instruction on the specific provisions of the reasonable accommodation process. The training will include an instruction advising managers and supervisors of the potential consequences for violations of the ADA. Additionally, AccentCare has agreed to document complaints of disability discrimination and report to the EEOC.

“It has always been our contention that AccentCare demonstrated a reckless disregard for the federally protected rights of this valuable employee, rather than carefully considering her request for leave to see her doctor,” said EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Joel Clark.

Robert A. Canino, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Dallas District Office, added, “We would expect that employers in the health care field would be keenly aware of the importance of supporting the medical needs of their employees by allowing reasonable time that may be required for treatment. We are pleased with the resolution of this case.”

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Judge: Manufacturer Violated ADA by Nixing Workers With Positive Carpal Tunnel Tests

Employers violate federal law when they sweep with too broad a brush and bar anyone with particular medical conditions from employment. The proper approach is to assess each applicant’s ability to do the job.

A federal judge ruled in favor of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on Nov. 16 in its discrimination charge against Amsted Rail Co., Inc., the federal agency announced on Monday. The judge ruled that Amsted, a leading manufacturer of steel castings for the rail industry, violated federal disability law when it disqualified job applicants based on the results of a nerve conduction test for carpal tunnel syndrome rather than conducting an individualized assessment of each applicant’s ability to do the job safely.

According to the ruling in EEOC v. Amsted Rail Co., Inc., No. 14-cv-1292-JPG-SCW (S.D. Ill.), the court found that Amsted’s practice screened out job applicants based on a small statistical risk that they might develop carpal tunnel syndrome, violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The court also ruled that Amsted violated the ADA when it refused to hire Montrell Ingram because he previously had successful surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome.

In motions filed with the court last year, the EEOC asked the court to rule that Amsted’s use of the nerve conduction test was discriminatory as a matter of law, as well as its policy not to hire applicants who had previously had carpal tunnel syndrome surgery. The EEOC argued that Amsted regarded applicants as disabled because it unreasonably perceived them as at risk to develop carpal tunnel syndrome based upon previous surgery for the condition or the results of the nerve conduction test. Amsted argued that its nerve conduction test and previous surgery rule were justified to identify persons with an enhanced risk for the development of carpal tunnel syndrome.

The court rejected the majority of Amsted’s arguments and ruled that the company’s conduct was unlawful because it discriminated on the basis of disability, finding that the nerve conduction test had little to no value in predicting the likelihood of future injury.

“While Amsted would like to claim it was protecting workers, its practice denied employment opportunities to workers who were ready and able to do the job,” said Andrea G. Baran, regional attorney of the EEOC’s St. Louis District. “Employment decisions, including hiring decisions, must be based on a person’s ability to perform the job, not on stereotypes, assumptions or conjecture. An individualized assessment of the applicant’s present ability to safely perform the job duties is required before an employer may screen out an applicant based on medical tests or exams in the hiring process.”

The case is pending in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois in Benton, Ill., and will now proceed with determining damages and remedies for the applicants who were harmed by Amsted’s discriminatory conduct.

Wheels Up: Airline Forks Over $9.8M in Stock to Settle ADA Reasonable Accommodation Lawsuit

An airlines’ rigid policy of requiring all employees returning from medical leave to have no restrictions came back to bite them under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

American Airlines and Envoy Air will pay $9.8 million in stock, which is worth over $14 million if cashed in today, and provide other significant relief to settle a nationwide class disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced yesterday. The EEOC’s suit said the airlines unlawfully denied reasonable accommodations to hundreds of employees.

“This matter highlights the critical role of the Americans with Disabilities Act in getting people back to work as quickly as possible,” said EEOC Acting Chair Victoria A. Lipnic. “The parties deserve credit for working diligently to bring this matter to resolution.”

According to the EEOC’s suit, American and Envoy violated federal law by requiring their employees to have no restrictions before they could return to work following a medical leave. Under this policy, if an employee had restrictions, American and Envoy refused to allow them to return to work and failed to determine if there were reasonable accommodations that would allow the employee to return to work with restrictions.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination based on disability and also requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodation to employees with disabilities unless doing so would cause significant difficulty or expense for the employer. If employees with disabilities are not able to do their current job, even with a reasonable accommodation, employers are obligated to look for a reassignment to another position for those employees.

The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, Civil Action No. 17-cv-04059-SPL, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process and continued negotiations prior to filing suit. The consent decree resolves the EEOC’s lawsuit and several charges of discrimination filed by individuals with the EEOC. The systemic investigation was conducted by the EEOC’s Phoenix District Office.

In addition to the $9.8 million in stock, the two-year decree includes injunctions against engaging in any future discrimination or retaliation based on disability, and requires the companies to adopt policies that ensure reasonable accommodations are provided to persons with disabilities. American and Envoy will provide mandatory periodic training on the ADA to employees. The settlement applies to all American and Envoy employees throughout the country.

EEOC Deputy General Counsel James L. Lee said, “We are pleased the parties were able to resolve this important case without resorting to prolonged and expensive litigation, and we are proud of the Commission’s long record of protecting people with disabilities from workplace discrimination.”

Elizabeth Cadle, district director for the Phoenix office, added, “This settlement demonstrates the need for employers to have good ADA policies. That means policies which consider employers’ obligations to provide reassignment without competition as a reasonable accommodation for employees with disabilities who become unable to do their current job even with accommodations.”

EEOC Regional Attorney Mary O’Neill added, “This consent decree is the result of productive and thoughtful negotiations with American. We appreciate American and Envoy working with the EEOC to reach a settlement. In addition to providing meaningful monetary relief for hundreds of former employees, the settlement contains important equitable relief, including company policy changes and training designed to provide people with disabilities equal opportunities in the workplace.”

According to its website, http://www.aa.com, American Airlines, headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, is an airline that operates an average of nearly 6,700 flights per day to nearly 350 destinations in more than 50 countries, and employs over 120,000 people.

Staffing Firm Drops Pre-Offer Health Inquiries in Disability Rights Suit Settlement With EEOC

Here’s a reminder to check your job application packages before you have would-be employees fill them out. And then make sure you toss in the trash any illegal questions contained within.

Strataforce, a staffing firm with offices in California, Indiana, North Carolina, and South Carolina, agreed to resolve a lawsuit by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging that the company made pre-offer health inquiries of applicants in violation of federal law, the agency announced yesterday.

According to EEOC’s lawsuit, Strataforce asked applicants to complete an application package that included a detailed medical questionnaire before the company offered the applicant a position or placement. The medical questionnaires asked for sensitive health information, and included numerous disability-related questions. Employers are generally prohibited from making pre-offer medical inquiries and refusing to hire qualified individuals with disabilities by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

EEOC filed suit against Strataforce in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division (EEOC v. Workforce Integration Inc d/b/a Strataforce, Case No. 1:17-cv-4104, S.D. Ind.) on Nov. 6, 2017. The parties reached agreement and filed a joint motion to approve a consent judgment on November 7. The motion was approved by the Court and the Consent Judgment was entered on November 13. Under the Consent Judgment, Strataforce will be required to provide notice to applicants of their rights under the ADA and submit annual compliance reports to the Commission during the Judgment’s four-year term.

“Congress recognized that prohibiting pre-offer medical inquiries was necessary to prevent applicants from being subjected to harmful and unfounded stereotypes on the basis of an actual or perceived disability,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Kenneth Bird. “As staffing agencies now play a large role in our nation’s workforce, eliminating any discrimination in their screening practices is increasingly important to ensuring that workers with disabilities have equal access to work opportunities. Here, EEOC’s investigation showed Strataforce has hired many individuals with disabilities, and we are pleased that in the future Strataforce will conduct its hiring processes in compliance with the ADA. I commend Strataforce for entering an early resolution of the case.”

Eliminating barriers in recruitment and hiring is one of six national priorities identified by EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP). These barriers can include exclusionary policies and practices, restrictive application processes, and the use of screening tools such as pre-employment tests, background checks and medical questionnaires.

EEOC: Kaiser Alum. Will Reinstate Hiring Offer to Disabled Employee, Pay $175 to Settle ADA Suit

The Beatles had a song: All we are saying is give peace a chance.

Employers have to give persons with disabilities a fair chance at a job.

Kaiser Aluminum Corporation, the leading producer of fabricated aluminum products in the United States, will pay $175,000 and reinstate its hiring offer to a qualified production worker to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.

According to the EEOC’s suit, Kaiser withdrew its job offer for production work at its Trentwood mill in Spokane after Donald McMurray’s medical records showed a workplace injury from over 10 years ago. The EEOC found that McMurray, with a long history of construction work at the time, was a well-qualified candidate fully capable of meeting the job’s physical demands.

“All I ever wanted was for Kaiser to let me prove that I was physically able to do the job,” said McMurray. “My medical history didn’t paint the true picture of who I am today and what I can do. But that’s all behind me, and I am excited that my future is with an industry leader like Kaiser.”

Failing to hire a person based on a record of a prior disability or a perceived disability violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington (EEOC v. Kaiser Aluminum Washington, LLC, 2:16-cv-00343-SAB) after an investigation by EEOC investigator Toni Haley and after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

“EEOC and Kaiser worked hard together to resolve a tough case and further the objectives of the ADA,” said EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Teri Healy. “We are very pleased with the outcome of this lawsuit and appreciate Kaiser’s willingness to work with the EEOC to resolve this matter and its commitment to its obligations under the law.”

Seattle EEOC Field Director Nancy Sienko added, “Mr. McMurray will be a great addition to the Kaiser team. His reinstatement and Kaiser’s implementation of new hiring procedures are a win-win for all involved. Eliminating barriers in recruitment and hiring and enforcing the ADA are high priorities for the EEOC.”

Employee Was Unlawfully Denied Leave of Absence for Medical Attention, EEOC Alleges

Here’s what appears to be a cut-and-dry case of discrimination against an employee with a disability.

Triton Management, LLC, a Carlsbad, Calif.-based company, violated federal law when it failed to accommodate an employee with a disability and instead fired her, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), announced in a lawsuit filed Sept. 29.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, an employee required medical attention and needed a leave of absence for her disability. The EEOC charges that Triton failed to properly engage in the interactive process and instead terminated her employment.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California (EEOC v. Triton, Inc., Case No.: 3:17-cv-02004-BAS-KSC) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC’s suit seeks back pay, compensa­tory and punitive damages for the employee, as well as injunctive relief intended to prevent further discrimination in the workplace.

“We continue to see employers refusing to accommodate employees with disabilities, as they are required to do under the ADA,” said Anna Park, regional attorney for EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office, which includes San Diego in its jurisdiction. “The EEOC has a clear mission to fight for the rights of employees facing both disabilities and discrimination.”

Christopher Green, director of the EEOC’s San Diego Local Office, added, “Providing an accommodation is an essential part of the ADA. Failing to do so can lead to a violation of the law.”

EEOC Alleges Food Store Didn’t Accommodate Employee Recovering From Surgery on Wrist

A food store in the western U.S. has an Americans With Disabilities Act problem.

Jackson Energy, a division of Jacksons Food Stores, violated federal law by refusing to accommodate a worker recovering from wrist surgery and terminating her because of her disability, the EEOC charged in a lawsuit filed on Sept. 29.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, while working as a dispatcher for Jackson Energy in Meridian, Idaho, Penny Wightman suffered an injury to her wrist that required surgery and was not expected to be fully released to work for at least four to six months. At her employer’s request, she returned to work on modified light duty one week after her surgery, and trained a colleague on her regular duties. However, a few weeks after she did so, the company forced Wightman to go on unpaid medical leave until she could return to work without any restrictions. The EEOC alleges that Jacksons ignored Wightman’s requests for an accommodation, such as speech recognition software, that potentially would have allowed her to continue to perform her dispatcher duties, and instead they fired her when she exhausted her leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) before making a full recovery.

Terminating a qualified employee because of a disability violates the Americans with Disa­bilities Act (ADA). The law also requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee or job applicant with a disability, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship for the employer. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho (U.S. EEOC v. Jacksons Food Stores, Inc., d/b/a Jackson Energy, Case No. 1:17-CV-00407-REB) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks monetary damages on behalf of Wightman and injunctive relief, which typically includes training on anti-discrimination laws, posting of notices at the worksite, and compliance reporting.

This is the agency’s second disability discrimination lawsuit against this employer. Just last month, the EEOC alleged that the company refused to interview a qualified applicant because he was deaf, in a suit filed in the Western District of Washington (EEOC v. Jacksons Food Stores, Inc., 2:17-CV-01285-TSZ).

“Jacksons acknowledged that Ms. Wightman was an excellent employee. But when she became injured, the company refused to even consider potential reasonable accommodations that might have allowed her to fully perform her duties, even with her restrictions,” said EEOC Senior Trial Attorney May Che. “Instead, Jacksons had her train her replacement, forced her to take medical leave, then discarded her after that expired.”

EEOC Seattle Field Director Nancy Sienko said, “The EEOC has made a national priority of identifying inflexible leave policies that discriminate against individuals with disabilities.” She added, “To insist that workers are 100% healed before they can return to work defeats the whole purpose of the ADA, which is to ensure that when qualified employees with disabilities are ready and willing to work, they have that opportunity to earn a living instead of being sidelined by discrimination.”

Meridian, Idaho-based Jackson Energy is a wholesale and transportation company delivering fuel to over 800 branded retail locations in 9 western states, and is a division of Jacksons Food Stores, Inc. According to its website, http://www.jacksons.com/, Jacksons Foods is national chain of over 230 Chevron-, Shell-, and Texaco-branded convenience stores and one of the largest privately held corporations in Idaho with operations in six Western states and over 3,000 employees.